The Lakewood Family YMCA is offering some new programming this fall thanks in large part to a donation from one of Long Beach’s most famous athletes. JuJu Smith-Schuster is set to begin his sixth season in the National Football League as a new member of the Kansas City Chiefs, but the former Poly High School and USC wide receiver has maintained a connection to the city that raised him.

Since the start of his professional career, Smith-Schuster has hosted a number of youth football camps in Long Beach and has also bought toys for local kids in need during the holiday season. A few weeks back, his passion for football matched up with his desire to support Long Beach’s youth, as the JuJu Foundation made a $25,000 donation to the Lakewood YMCA to support a new flag football program this fall.

“Lakewood Family YMCA is grateful to the JuJu Foundation for their generous gift of $25,000 that will bring flag football to our community’s underserved youth,” said Lakewood YMCA Senior Executive Director Mario Vargas. “It is partnerships like these that give children the opportunity to participate in programs to learn teamwork, responsibility and build self-confidence and character. It is always a pleasure to partner with an organization whose values align with what the YMCA stands for: youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.”

The Lakewood YMCA offers a variety of programming for kids in sports like basketball, soccer, martial arts, and more, but this will be the first year offering flag football. Thanks to JuJu’s donation, the majority of the kids participating in the program this year will be able to play free of charge.

Reggie Garcia is the sports director at the Lakewood YMCA, and he’s excited about the opportunity to provide programming for a new sport. The program is targeted at kids ages 6-13, giving them a chance to experience the sport in a non-contact setting. For many participants, this will be their first exposure to organized football.

“It was a pleasure forming this partnership with the JuJu Foundation for the community,” said Garcia. “Any chance we get to impact the youth through sports we jump on it. In this case, it will be one of the first football programs in the community that will focus on much more than just the sport. We are excited to get the opportunity to be a part of this partnership and we’re looking forward to see what the future holds.”

The flag football program will accommodate around 150 kids and will get started this August. For information on sign-ups, email Reggie Garcia at [email protected] or visit the Lakewood YMCA’s website.

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